Council questioned on Birling Gap gas haze

Photo by Eddie Mitchell
Photo by Eddie Mitchell

Council bosses were questioned on the mysterious Birling Gap gas haze at the cabinet meeting last night (Wednesday).

Independent councillor Kathy Ballard raised a public question at the town hall meeting, saying she had received an anonymous email on the incident.

The email addressed the noxious gas which made many sick and caused the beauty spot to be evacuated on August 27.

It criticised agencies for failing to take a sample of the gas and said the fire brigade was wrong to dismiss chlorine as its source.

The email, councillor Ballard said, argued that it was unlikely to have come from a ship – which is the main focus of investigations by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency currently – and said it was more likely to have been an accidental chlorine release in the vicinity.

Council Leader David Tutt responded, “The comments you make concern me too.

“The way the incident was handled, I would commend the emergency services for a splendid job evacuating the beach. There are many different agencies involved, I wouldn’t like to speculate where it might have come from.

“I ask on a daily basis for updates – I want to know what that gas was so the people impacted by it can be certain they were treated properly and not have any long term issues affect their health.”

Responding to whether the incident would affect tourism to the town, he said, “This could have occurred anywhere.”

The issue of the Southern Water treatment works as a potential source was also raised in the meeting.

However, in a statement Southern Water said, “We would like to confirm all our sites in the area are constantly monitored and everything is working normally.

“There have been no emergency releases recently from our Eastbourne Wastewater Treatment Works in the area and the site does not use chlorine gas in the treatment process.

“We would only release from long or short sea outfalls in emergencies, and we do have a permit from the Environment Agency which allows the emergency release of screened, diluted wastewater in order to prevent sewer flooding during periods of very heavy rainfall.

“We have been working with the EA and Public Health England and they have no concerns over our assets.”